Beating a dead horse
or taiming a petrified mare
The method where people with chronic diseases such as Parkinson’s can reduce their stress-related symptoms and, with persistent work, break free of their diagnosis
One week after second session with Lilian and the Hope Shortcut
“Haven’t I tried everything?”
The computer screen before me contains two rectangular boxes, side by side. One containing the smiling face of Lilian Sjoberg against a dramatic mountain background and the other containing my image, just a blank white wall behind me. There is something about this new virtual environment where I get to observe myself from this vantage point. I get to look into my own eyes and see the expressions on my face. It is very revealing. I am slightly slumped in my chair. My eyes are squinted into slits with my smile. The thought “Here we go again” crosses my mind. I feel a fool. Haven’t I tried this already? Haven’t I tried everything? I have tried so many things, so many therapies, programs, practitioners, doctors. Honestly, I have had enough. I feel like I am kicking a dead horse. But, I know that Lilian is onto something. She has observed the patterns and made the connections. Lilian is sure, determined, generous and for some reason she is steadfast in encouraging me. Some part of me must have hope, because here I am.
Lilian is appalled at my use of the phrase “beating a dead horse” which I try to explain is just an English turn of phrase. It is actually quite a gruesome image. She suggests a more hopeful way of looking at things. Yes, the horse has been abused, but we can rehabilitate it. Like Black Beauty, it can trust and be free again. Belief, hope and a positive image is so important for healing. I can’t make much progress if I see my efforts to heal as beating a dead horse.
The dead horse is actually me: my poor abused body that I have been dragging around for years, decades actually, pushing it and forcing it against its will, ignoring it, applying all sorts of remedies, treatments and therapies trying to fix it, and medicating it. The horse understandably, doesn’t want to get up.
Traumatic events are stored in the body
The surviver is the person that react with fear and run away or use the freeze instinct often.
The relaxed person get eaten very fast by the saber tooth tiger.
In modern world the brain is operating in the dark and still collecting information on when to react to survive the next attack from a predator.
If you want to get better accept this biological fact and learn how to get out of your instinct stress
I have felt shifts and changes since I last worked with Lilian over a year ago. My physical condition has deteriorated but I have become so much more aware of the emotional connections to my physical symptoms. My medication is not working as well and my “off” periods have worsened significantly. An “off” is when the medication wears off, or fails and the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease break through. With my symptoms more prominent, I can actually feel what is going on in my body. The symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, when in full force so clearly feel like a full-body panic attack. Well actually for me, it is mostly the left side of my body that feels the attack. My body is in fear for its life. It tries to stop me by freezing my muscles, stiff so I can’t move forward. My stomach tightens into knots, my throat closes, my eye gets wide dart from side to side. My jaw clenches, my body heats up, and my limbs begin to tremble. It is so clearly a deep terror, panic, all-encompassing fear, like the climax of a horror film when the victim lets out the blood-curdling scream.
It has also become so 100% clear to me that often my physical symptoms are worsened, or are preceded by a fearful thought or an emotional response, even something seemingly benign, like my son making a mess in the kitchen, my inner critic judging me, or a perceived slight from my husband. I have also talked to other people living with PD and some of them have confirmed their own experience that emotional upset can trigger an “off”. This not to say that I can control my symptoms, they still come and go on their own schedule holding me hostage for longer periods of time and leaving me with smaller and smaller windows of respite.
Interoception - the forgotten sense
Your skill to interpret what is going on in your body is together with balance and coordination very important skills.
We do not learn about them in school. But the ones that instictivly can feel and use their sence interoception are the ones that fast can do something fast and stop the decline in health.
The ones that understand the language of the body can avoid longterm stress and longlasting stress symptoms
It is actually hard to really admit this observation. I feel so weak and frail. Is my constitution so fragile that the smallest upset can throw me into a frenzy of whole-body fear? Surely it is not that simple. There are layers of genetic and environmental factors that led to the damage in my brain that causes this intense reaction. Lilian assures me that it is actually evolutionarily appropriate that survival of the fittest would have favored a heightened fear response. So, in fact, I am an evolutionary survivor. She assures me that this is not my fault.
It is difficult to accept the responsibility that my habitual thoughts, emotions and beliefs may be contributing to my illness that has kept me disabled for so many years. But this is an important starting point- to recognize that physical disease symptoms are linked to thoughts, beliefs and emotions.
This creates a tricky balancing act. There is a fine line that you must walk between seeing the correlation between symptoms and thoughts as an avenue for hope and seeing it as a reason for self-blame. It is not so easy to say, “oh just think differently and your disease will go away”. It is not that simple. There are layers upon layers. It is beneath conscious awareness.
The horse within me perks her ears and opens an eye. She lets out a soft sigh. I am finally seeing her.
I am finally listening.
She is not getting up yet, but there is hope.
Lilian is an observer and a trouble-shooter. She has observed the patterns clearly. She has made the correlations. She has noticed that chronic illnesses are grouping of stress response symptoms, Parkinson’s disease being a particularly obvious one. The growing understanding in the world is that 90% of disease is stress related.
Lilian does not base her approach on foregone assumptions about the mechanics of Parkinson’s Disease. The rest of the PD treatment world relies on the assumption that PD is caused by a lack of dopamine and focuses on that. Lilian has looked beyond that. She looks at each person individually and looks at each symptom as an overactive symptom of stress. She has developed a multi-step program to begin to alleviate the symptoms of chronic disease. The beginning point is the recognition that there is hope.
Her method of healing involves several steps.
- Adopting a new belief system that the physical disease symptoms are linked to thoughts, beliefs and emotions. (HOPE)
- Catching stressful reactions (Observe symptoms)
- Other healing modalities that reduce stress.
E.g. exercise and getting to the root cause of subconscious or habitual stressful triggers and solving them (Pacify stress)
- Adding power to your own journey (Engage)
In my first session with Lilian over a year ago, she explained step 1. In that year (this is not a standard length of time between visits, it is normally one to two weeks), I have seen so clearly and experienced the correlation between thoughts, emotions and beliefs so acutely in my body. And so here I am and I begin again. Ready to look deeper, to see if I can address what is keeping my body in a perpetual danger response.
The horse within me perks her ears and opens an eye. She lets out a soft sigh. I am finally seeing her. I am finally listening. She is not getting up yet, but there is hope.
Change your beliefs
You need to have supporting beliefs on your journey toward smaller symptoms:
Of course you can get better
Mind and body are connected and interact
If just one person in the world can get better, so can I
Here I am ready to look deeper, to see if I can address what is keeping my body in a perpetual danger response.
This is the second of a series of blog posts on the progress in Lilian Sjoeberg’s Hope Shortcut program for chronic illness.